Letters //

There’s an ibis inside us all

An ode to the ibis in letter form.

Image: Lane Sainty Image: Lane Sainty
Image: Lane Sainty
Image: Lane Sainty

Dear Honi,

As an ignorant first year, I have until recently had nothing worth writing to you. Reports on the ongoing public execution of Tom Raue, while interesting, left me confused rather than opinionated, wondering how on Earth I should pronounce Raue’s surname. But I digress. I write not to ask for help with pronunciation, but to express myself. So I want to talk about Ed McMahon’s article “Ibis intrigue”.

The widespread hatred of our ibis population confuses and infuriates me. Furious may be a hyperbolic description of my feelings, but I believe hyperbole is warranted here. You see, I love the ibis. It is a species which consistently appears to signal the better times in my life, it is the harbinger of my happiness, and for this I thank it. Let me explain.

I was 17 when, under the gaze of Hyde Park’s ibises (who had dominated conversation that day) I kissed a boy for the first time. I was young, only recently out of the closet, and it was a powerful moment. I still remember the emotional contentment, the physical stimulation, and the ibis presence. Perhaps the significance I attach to those ibises in my memory is unwarranted (after all, it’s not like they caused my date to kiss me) and if ibises had exited my life then and there, I’d likely think nothing of them. But they didn’t.

Two years later, I began studying at USyd. I was thrust into the company of venerable academics, people who share my intellectual interests, and ibises. Strange though it may seem, I consider the lattermost integral to my uni life. When I pass the Quadrangle’s sandstone majesty, they greet me. When I show a modicum of consideration by discarding my rubbish, they greet me. When I lunch on Wednesdays with a copy of Honi Soit, they, stylised on the front page, greet me. The connection is quite logical: uni makes me happy and there are ibises at uni. And don’t tell me anything about correlation not equaling causation.

But Ibises represent even more than my own happiness. They represent us all. Their slender, elegant beaks penetrate the ground’s surface, questing for nourishment beneath. Similarly, we students and academics are not content, like cattle, with what appears on the surface, but instead we probe deeper, like ibises, for nourishing scientific truths, philosophical explanations, sociological solutions, and so forth. This simile has endured thousands of years, first in the form of Egypt’s ibis-headed knowledge god Thoth and today in the form of Honi Soit’s ibis as a symbol in the search for journalistic truth. And that symbol depends as much on USyd’s real ibises, whose plight should move us all, as it does on ancient references.

The significance of the ibis, to me and as a symbol for us all, is why I find the hatred it receives so shocking. It is also why I am appalled by the systematic anti-ibis programs Ed McMahon alerted Honi Soit’s readership to. I want my fellow students to love our ibises as I do but I don’t know how to make them. I can angrily yell at whoever I hear disparaging ibises, but is that enough? Why is there no Ibis Appreciation Society for me and people like me? In truth I feel isolated and disempowered on this matter, not unlike USyd’s ibises.

Yours sincerely,

William Edwards
Arts I

[Eds: It’s row-ee (row as in ‘Mary and John had a row’, not ‘row your boat’).]

Vice Chancellor Michael Spence.

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